The Human-First Customer Assessment: Why You Need It & How to Do It
Linda Formichelli

Linda Formichelli

The Human-First Customer Assessment: Why You Need It & How to Do It

When you assess a customer’s success, you probably look at all the right acronyms: CSAT, CAC, NPS, CLV, and the rest.

And it seems to make sense to rely on metrics like these: when you boil your customer’s success down to a number, you can take one glance and know how you’re doing. “Oh, their usage is high, their NPS score is good and we’ve had three interactions in the last two weeks. Looks like they’re doing OK. Next!”

The problem: you’re missing out on the metrics that are harder to measure, but that can be just as important, if not more. Metrics that have to do more with relationships, intuition, and gut feelings than with hard and fast numbers—like how strong your relationship is, how the customer is holding up in today’s difficult economy, and whether your SaaS solution is truly critical to their success.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Customer Success Metrics: What’s the Diff?

Your net First Contact Resolution Rate will be a definite number. Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost will be numbers with a dollar sign in front of them. 

These cold, hard calculations are quantitative measures. They’re close-ended, meaning there’s no variation in the way you interpret them. You know exactly what each customer’s Customer Lifetime Value is. When that number goes up, it’s good, When it goes down, it’s bad.

Qualitative metrics are broad and open-ended; for example, the tone of the customer’s communications with you or whether the customer resonates with your mission and values (and vice versa). 

We’re not ditching numbers altogether when we use qualitative metrics like these. The trick is to find a way to quantify the qualitative—to turn a broad, perhaps emotion-based metric into a number you can track. (Since you can’t really analyze a database full of inputs like “Not really” and “Sometimes good and sometimes bad.”)

The qualitative measurements you’ll want to use vary depending on your business. While every company wants to see high CLVs and low CACs, a qualitative measure that’s important for a large medical SaaS company in San Francisco may be useless to a small field service SaaS provider in Boston. 

Why You Need to Put Humans First in Your Customer Assessments

We humans are not numbers, and it can be hard to pin us down. In fact, we’re a mess! We say one thing and then do another, we act like we’re happy with a product or service when we’re not, and sometimes we suddenly get fed up and defect to the competition without explanation. Quantitative measures—precise calculations and exact numbers—can’t possibly account for all this messiness.

In fact, positive quantitative metrics can mask an at-risk customer. Even if your calculations show a successful, happy customer who’s likely to renew, that may not be the whole story. Maybe the real story is that:

  • The customer may give you a high NPS score because they love your funny invoices and receipts, but they’re not hitting some unspoken—but important—goals.
  • Their average CLV is increasing, but your business is just not critical to their success. 
  • Your software is helping them make a killing, but for some reason they can’t articulate they’re just not that into you.

CSMs are human just like customers, and you bring to the table knowledge you’ve developed over your entire lifetime. This knowledge can’t be captured in hard calculations like CLVs and CACs. 

Two-thirds of companies surveyed by Gartner say they compete mostly on the basis of customer experience. A human-first customer assessment supplements your hard numbers with key qualitative metrics, gives you a full picture of the customers’ experience—and gives your SaaS business an advantage in this fiercely competitive environment.

How to Conduct a Human-First Customer Assessment

So how does a CSM create and conduct a qualitative assessment?

First, you develop thoughtful, open-ended questions that are relevant to your business. Think back to your college exams—these will be essay questions instead of multiple choice or true-and-false.

Some examples:

  • How close are they to hitting their goals?
  • How critical are we to their success?
  • How much value are they getting from our product?
  • How would they rate our support efforts?
  • How likely are they to stay with us?
  • What is the tone of their communications with us?
  • Are our mission and vision simpatico?
  • How strong is our relationship?
  • How are they holding up?
  • How fully is our product meeting their expectations?
  • If they were deciding right now, how likely are they to renew?
  • How often would they like to be in touch?

These questions inspire you to look beyond the numbers. You sleuth out the answers by not only listening to the customer’s answers to your questions, but by reading between the lines—by considering the tone of their voice, the context of the situation, the intricacies of their history, and the strength of their relationship.

CSMs: Ready to See the Whole Picture of Your Customers’ Experience?

In our next post, we’ll do a deep dive on how to:

  • Develop the right questions for your SaaS business.
  • Get the information you need from your customers.
  • Interpret that information in a way you can use.
  • Calculate scores for “unscorable” questions.

These insights will help you grow your business with the right metrics—whether you use a solution like Quala, an Excel spreadsheet, or even a paper checklist. If you’d like to be the first to know when the post is live so you can start learning, follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe below.

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